Campaigners are celebrating after Southwark Council’s plan to cut down two healthy oak trees was rejected by officers.  

Officers also advised the council to put a provisional tree preservation order (TPO), which came into effect on January 19, in place for six months.  

The trees in Sydenham Hill Wood in Dulwich, thought to be 155 and 115 years old, sit on either side of the western end of a footbridge on Cox’s Walk – the council said they must be felled so the bridge can be repaired. 

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Southwark set a date for the trees to be cut down in November as its two-year felling order was due to expire the following month. 

But before the council could do so campaigners set up camp by the trees, guarding them day and night. 

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On the day the trees were due to be chopped down two men arrived with a chainsaw but were fended off by the group. 

They were members of the Save the Footbridge Oaks Campaign, which was launched after the council gave itself planning permission to fell the trees in January 2019. 

See related: Campaigners camp out to stop Southwark felling oak trees

A petition from the campaigners to save the trees has to date racked up nearly 6,700 signatures. 

The Save Oaks campaign produced an alternative proposal for the bridge repairs, arguing the trees could be saved by using hand tools instead of bringing large machinery into the woods. 

Southwark rejected the proposal, estimating it would cost half a million pounds. 

After the council was stopped from felling the trees, it applied for an interim injunction from the High Court, which would have made the campaigners’ protest illegal. 

See related: Tree felling protest: Southwark Council goes to High Court

But Mrs Justice Cutts rejected the application on December 1. 

After the council’s felling order expired in December, it submitted another in its place. 

See related: Southwark's plan to fell oak trees nears 100 objections

But after evaluating the application, which received 177 objections and three comments of support, officers told the council they did not recommend that the works take place. 

The TPO notice, signed by the director of planning, states: “The council has made the order because the woodland makes a positive contribution to the local environment as assessed by a tree evaluation method for preservation orders (TEMPO) evaluation.  

“The order took effect on a provisional basis on January 19, 2021.  

“It will continue in force on this basis for a further 6 months or until the order is confirmed by the council, whichever first occurs.  

“The council will consider whether the order should be confirmed, that is to say, whether it should take effect permanently.  

“Before this decision is made, the people affected by the order have a right to make objections or other representations about any of the trees, groups of trees or woodlands covered by the order.” 

The TPO prohibits anyone from cutting down, topping or lopping any of the trees described in the order without the local planning authority’s consent. 

The Save Oaks campaign said it was “great news”, while people congratulated their efforts online.  

One person said: “Amazing to have a little bit of good news right now! Well done everyone.” 

Another said: “This is incredible news, fantastic result, congratulations.” 

Lambeth Green Councillor Pete Elliott also praised campaign.

He said: “Well done to all the amazing and dedicated campaigners who went well beyond what should have been necessary to stop this decision, other tree campaigners should take heart!”

The council says it is accountable to the public.

Cllr Catherine Rose, cabinet member for leisure, environment and roads, said “We are accountable to the public and working on their behalf to make the woods accessible to all, via the bridge.

“As with every council decision, there are people who agree and disagree, and we listen to all these voices.

“The public interest in this means that we have a provisional Tree Preservation Order in place, halting the required works, while we look at the next steps forward.”